Peace Corps Celebrates Diversity During Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic-American Peace Corps Volunteers Are Making A Positive Impact Around The World through Peace Corps Service

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2007 - Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter is pleased to announce the agency\'s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. From September 15 to October 15, the Peace Corps will celebrate the culture and traditions of the more than 42 million U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Says Director Tschetter, "This year\'s theme of "Making a Positive Impact in American Society" allows us to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans past and present who have served in the Peace Corps. Through their dedication to service, they have helped carry out the Peace Corps mission of facilitating global development while creating a better understanding of our nation\'s rich, multi-cultural heritage."

Hispanic-American Peace Corps Volunteers hail from 35 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. In the Peace Corps, they focus their work in the sectors of education, business, health, environment, agriculture or urban development projects. Here are some stellar examples of Volunteers currently serving in the Peace Corps:

  • Alejandro Martinez, a Youth Development Volunteer in Costa Rica, works with families and youth, including children in orphanages in Costa Rica. For Martinez, Peace Corps service in Central America has had an element of coming home since he was adopted as a young child from an orphanage in Honduras. Says Martinez, "Being here, and as I travel around Latin America, I feel an intense love for the people of each country. I relate to them with an open mind since a part of my identity is tied to theirs."

  • Susana Calderon, a Health Volunteer with a Master\'s in Public Health, is dedicated to working with youth on HIV/AIDS education and prevention in Nicaragua, specifically with vulnerable populations such as transporters. Says Calderon, "My parents emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, and it was very difficult for them to understand why I wanted to go into the Peace Corps. They said, \'We\'ve worked all of our lives to get you to the U.S., and now you want to leave?\' But I enjoy being here, and I enjoy blending in. I also spoke Spanish already, so it was easier for me to adapt from that standpoint."

  • Norman Torres, who served as a Youth Development Volunteer in Moldova from 1999-2002, is now serving again as a Math teacher in Malawi. He has what Peace Corps Malawi Country Director Dale Mosier calls "one of those contagious, out-going personalities that naturally attracts people to him." Outside of the classroom, Norman is involved in sports, teaching life skills, and organizing the activities of a wildlife club. Says Torres, "Teaching and living in a new culture are my passions. Peace Corps experience is going to improve my chances of making my passions a career."

The Peace Corps actively recruits people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences to ensure that the Volunteer corps reflects the extraordinary diversity of the American people. Ethnic minorities make up 16 percent of the 7,749 Americans serving in the Peace Corps. Currently, 4 percent of those Volunteers, or 275 individuals, identify themselves as Hispanic-American.

Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, more than 187,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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